Welcome to the Surface Chemistry Lab in the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University. The lab is led by Dr. Catherine Whitby.

We work at the edges (surfaces and interfaces) that control the properties of materials like paints, sunscreens, lubricants and dairy foods. All these materials are colloids. They are made of drops, bubbles and particles dispersed in a liquid. The drops, bubbles and particles are nanometres to micrometres in size.

We investigate how the chemical properties of drop (bubble or particle) surfaces control how colloidal materials flow and behave. A focus of our work is on using nanomaterials to modify the drop and bubble surface chemistry. This strategy enables us to tune the structure, stability and flow of soft materials used in food, pharmaceutical and agricultural products.

We use microscopy and rheology tools to do our research. We use them to probe inside colloidal materials and investigate their physical and chemical properties. These tools are found in the excellent facilities at Massey University, including the Riddett Institute and the Manawatu Microscopy & Imaging Centre.

Highlights of 2019

It was lots of fun hosting the MacDiarmid Institute DiscoveryCamp at Massey this year! DiscoveryCamp is an annual science camp for year 12 and 13 Maori and Pasifika students. I designed our camp to give the students a fun, hands-on experiences of how science is done. The week was also jam-packed with opportunities to meet people who are just as passionate about science as our visitors were. We wanted to inspire them, by showing the students the different pathways they could take and how they could contribute to society. Our visitors had a great time doing activities that covered the full scope of science at Massey; from veterinary science to food science to advanced materials and nanotechnology.


Highlights of 2018

During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate enough to win a few awards for my achievements in my chemistry classes. This year I am the Chair of the Manawatu Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry. One of my favourite parts of this role is handing out awards to our top performing students!


It was amazing to be part of the Space and Science Festival in Wellington on 19th May! It was great to have the opportunity to give a presentation on behalf of the MacDiarmid Institute and to talk about all the women involved in nanoscience at our institute. For me, the highlight was meeting NASA scientist Jen Blank who told us about the latest experiments being done by the Mars Rover and meeting NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.


Highlights of 2017

We were delighted to be part of a team led by Emilia Nowak of Massey University who won a Marsden Grant! We are looking forward to working with Emilia and Geoff Willmott of Auckland University on encapsulating aqueous liquids in a drop of aqueous liquid.

Ben Munro reached the finals of the 2017 Massey Uni Three Minute Thesis competition! His talk was called Does it Flow? Congratulations Ben!

We farewelled two people:

  • Sam Booty successfully completed his MSc on using hydrogels to deliver analgesics to injured birds (co-supervised by Dave Harding and Preet Singh).
  • Rajendaran Parthipan had been with us for two years doing a fantastic job investigating the formation of multiple Pickering emulsions and the patterns formed by Pickering emulsions as they are spread on surfaces. We are delighted to announced that he secured a permanent position with Syft Technologies in Christchurch!

We welcomed two postgraduate students and an intern:

  • Susav Pradhan commenced a PhD on using mcirorheology tools to understanding cell biomechanics. Susav is funded by the MacDiarmid Institute. He is co-supervised by Bill Williams of Massey University.
  • Sashikumar Ramamirtham commenced a PhD on the interfacial rheology of protein-polymer complexes. Sashi is funded by AgResearch. He is co-supervised by Bill Williams of Massey University and Mike Weeks of AgResearch.
  • Adeline Hermant, a Masters student at ENSCBP joined us for 5 months to work on a project on assembling nanoparticles.

Highlights of 2016

Ben Munro completed his PhD confirmation.

We welcomed an intern and a technician:

  • Floriane Bahuon, a Masters student at ENSCBP joined us for 5 months to work on a project (co-supervised by Simon Hall) on droplet fusion in Pickering emulsions
  • Rajendaran Parthipan joined us for 1 year to investigate the patterns formed by Pickering emulsions as they are spread on surfaces.

Highlights of 2015

We welcomed 2 new students:

  • Ben Munro has started a PhD (co-supervised by Simon Hall) on emulsion microstructure and dynamics
  • Sam Booty is doing a MSc on using hydrogels to deliver analgesics to injured birds (co-supervised by Dave Harding and Preet Singh).

Our new rheometer was installed in the lab:

Together with Bill Williams, we secured funding from for a new rotational rheometer from the Massey University Capital Equipment Funds. Our collaboration takes advantage of Bill’s expertise and instrumentation for microrheology and Catherine’s expertise in rheology. Together these instruments will be a powerful tool for quantifying shear responses over the microscopic and macroscopic scale. This will benefit our research and teaching in areas from biophysics to food technology.

Western Pacific Colloids 2015:

Vince Craig and Catherine organised this conference to extend the traditional Australia-Japan Colloid meeting hosted by ACIS to include our colleagues in China, New Zealand, Taiwan and South East Asia.  65 delegates attended. There were lots of exciting presentations. Highlights included: